Why are roads dangerous for pedestrians?

It is not inevitable that roads are dangerous for pedestrians

Why are roads dangerous for pedestrians?

It might seem that the obvious answer is that it is because roads are dangerous places, but the problem is an important one (due to the number of children and adults being killed and injured, and the amount of ill-health being caused by inactivity), so we should look beyond what might seem to be an obvious answer.

In reality, it is not inevitable that roads are dangerous for pedestrians, as indicated by the variation in pedestrian casualty rates
  • at particular locations over time
  • from one type of road to another
  • from one area of the country to another (apparently similar) area of the same country
  • from one country to another
  • as a result of the introduction of safety measures.

So we should not accept that the danger from motor vehicles is inevitable, but look at how the danger is caused.

What factors are making roads dangerous for pedestrians?

A number of factors can be put forward as potentially governing pedestrian casualty rates:
  • the attentiveness of pedestrians
  • the number of motor vehicles
  • the speed of motor vehicles
  • the physical layout of footways and carriageways
  • laws governing vehicle drivers
  • compliance of vehicle drivers with those laws
  • the attentiveness of vehicle drivers

All of these factors are a result of decisions made by individuals, groups, politicians and officials.

So the danger that pedestrians face is something that our society has decided upon.

The key parts in the policy decisions are
  • politicians and officials making the key decisions, influenced by
  • motor vehicle drivers and groups advocating greater priority for motor vehicles, and fewer restrictions on motor vehicles, and potentially greater danger for pedestrians
  • pedestrians and campaigning groups advocating less danger for pedestrians
  • the media reporting and hosting debates

What do pedestrians need from these groups?

From pedestrians themselves
  • a reasonable level of attentiveness

From politicians and officials
  • fair, evidence-based decision making

From motor vehicle drivers and groups
  • compliance with the law
  • not making unreasonable demands

From the media
  • fair and accurate reporting, i.e. avoiding sensationalism and bias

From pedestrians and campaigning groups
  • vigorous and effective campaigning

Under the first four headings, these are obligations - under the last, it is an opportunity.

Greater danger for pedestrians can potentially result from a deficiency in any of these.